Poetry


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The Windows

 

 

 

Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?

He is a brittle crazie glasse:

Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford

This glorious and transcendent place,

To be a window, through thy grace.

 

 

But when thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie,

Making thy life to shine within

The holy Preachers; then the light and glorie

More rev’rend grows, and more doth win:

Which else shows watrish, bleak, and thin.

 

 

Doctrine and life, colours and light, in one

When they combine and mingle, bring

A strong regard and aw: but speech alone

Doth vanish like a flaring thing,

And in the eare, not conscience ring.

 

 

 

 

Herbert

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Affinity

Consider this man in the field beneath,
Gaitered with mud, lost in his own breath,
Without joy, without sorrow,
Without children, without wife,
Stumbling insensitively from furrow to furrow,
A vague somnambulist; but hold your tears,
For his name also is written in the Book of Life.

Ransack your brainbox, pull out the drawers
That rot in your heart’s dust, and what have you to give
To enrich his spirit or the way he lives?
From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
Is there anything to show that your essential need
Is less than his, who has the world for church,
And stands bare-headed in the woods’ wide porch
Morning and evening to hear God’s choir
Scatter their praises? Don’t be taken in
By stinking garments or an aimless grin;
He also is human, and the same small star,
That lights you homeward, has inflamed his mind
With the old hunger, born of his kind.

R. S. Thomas

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glass

 

It is like the light coming through blue stained glass,
Yet not quite like it,
For the blueness is not transparent,
Only translucent.
Her soul’s light shines through,
But her soul cannot be seen.
It is something elusive, whimsical, tender, wanton, childlike, wise
And noble.

Joyce Kilmer

and listening to the voices ……

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Erich Fried

 

 

When we were the persecuted

I was one of you

How can I remain one

when you become the persecutors?

 

Your longing was

to become like other nations

who murdered you

Now you have become like them

 

You have outlived those

who were cruel to you

Does their cruelty live on

in you now?

 

You ordered the defeated :

‘Take off your boots’

Like the scapegoat you drove them into the wilderness

Into the great mosque of death

Whose sandals are of sand

 

But they did not take upon them the sin

You wished to lay on them

The imprint of their naked feet in the desert sand

Outlasts the traces of your bombs and your tanks

 

[ referring to the instruction given after the six day war to Egyptian prisoners to walk home through

the burning sand without boots ]

The poem is written by Erich Fried after the Six Days war in 1967. He is Jewish, born in Austria, exiled to Great Britain when the Nazis overtook the country, and because of the background of his own experiences with an extremist regime he became one of the harshest critics of Zionism – a mix of theocracy and racism. He is one of the most important post-modern poets of German language.

 

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they go there with empty hands

 

What do they do,
The singers, tale writers, dancers, painters,
Shapers, makers?

They go there with empty hands, into
The gap between.
They come back with things in their hands.

They go silent and come back with words, with tunes.
They go into confusion and come back with patterns.
They go limping and weeping, ugly and frightened,
And come back with the wings of a red wing hawk,
The eye of a mountain lion.

That is where they live,
Where they get their breath,
There, in the gap between,
The empty place

 

Ursula le Guin

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tulip

Perhaps the tulip knows about impermanence

and that is why, on a green stem

it carries a wine cup in the wilderness

Hafiz, (re)transl. Tom Davis

 

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light

 

O splendour of what is, by which I saw
the high delight, the true communion:
please show me how to say all I could see.

Up there there is a light. The light is God.
Creation contemplates its own creator,
and only in that seeing is there peace.

It stretches in a circle shape
so great, that its circumference
can so much more than wrap around the sun.

From top to bottom, that enormous light
collected, complex, is each single one
of all the gathered petals of a rose;

and all of it, each quality, the size, the height,
so big, so intricate, and yet one flower,
I saw: the whole, at once. The joy.

 

from Dante, Paradiso, canto xxx, transl. Tom Davis

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